The story of one woman who was transformed at a cellular level by the sound current of Japji Sahib
By Nirvair Kaur
Late one summer night in June 2003, unable to sleep, I sat at my computer listening to audio clips on the Spirit Voyage Music website. I clicked on Mata Mandir Singh‘s Gurmukhi version of the Mul Mantra from his 2-CD Japji set. During the few moments it took for him to sing this mantra in his resonant voice, what felt like a great far-reaching awakening began within me. I thought, "This is the most beautiful music I have ever heard," and while I "knew" that I had never heard it before, it felt familiar to me. This was my first personal encounter with Japji Sahib. I felt like I had found a precious jewel that I had forgotten I had. Re-encountering brought an instant, gentle, and complete breaking open of my heart. I began to cry. I played that 60 second audio clip over and over again, and sang with it, and cried, while my mind wondered vaguely in the background, "What does this mean?"
Something about Mata Mandir Singh’s singing of this particular mantra pierced me to my core. “What is this Japji?” I thought, “and if this one portion of it is so powerful, what dynamic is contained in its entirety?" I knew that I needed to explore this experience further.
When the CDs arrived in the mail, I immediately put on a pair of headphones and listened to the 45-minute Gurmukhi version. I wept my way through it. I found my mouth forming the sounds though I had no idea what the sounds might be and certainly no idea of what the words might mean in English. But I found myself thinking, "Even though I have no idea what he’s saying, I know what he’s saying." (On a level far beyond left-brain comprehension and literal understanding of dictionary definitions, I knew the beauty and the grace and the transformative power of that sound current.)
Initially I deliberately chose not to question or analyze the way that this bani instantly took up residence within me. I knew that intellectual objections would arise, stemming from the fact that I had been studying Kriya Yoga since 1995 and had in fact been ordained as a swami in an order established by Paramahansa Yogananda. I had studied Sanskrit and spent a great deal of my time in meditation chanting in Sanskrit. My immersion in Sanskrit mantra had helped me recover from a debilitating bout with chronic fatigue that had begun in 1994 and lasted for seven long and painful years. So part of my discomfort revolved around the idea that I "should" continue spiritual practices within "my own" tradition.
By the time I discovered Japji in June 2003, I had been trying for 3 1/2 years to come to terms with fibromyalgia. I had repeatedly altered and curtailed my physical activities, trying to find that magic level at which I could remain active without provoking continuous and excruciating pain. It eluded me. I had taken several private sessions with a wonderful instructor to learn Kundalini Yoga sets specifically designed to correct the internal imbalances related to fibromyalgia and fatigue. I wanted very much to be consistent with these practices, but my body was not capable of doing them on a regular basis. When I had finally regained enough energy and vitality to begin moving in and through my life again in 2000, fibromyalgia symptoms flared up with full force and incapacitated me in a new way. Finally in 2002 I stopped everything, altogether.
During the course of a year the pain decreased, eventually allowing me once again to sleep though the night. By the summer of 2003 I felt "plateaued"- happy to have reached a relatively pain-free resting place, but also stuck there. Tentative attempts at walking more than a block or two or doing gentle yoga caused rumblings below the surface which signaled that the volcano of pain could be activated with little provocation, and I was very resistant to triggering that cycle again. I thought I needed to commit myself again to intense japa, but didn’t feel drawn to any particular Sanskrit mantra.
Such was my state of affairs when I visited the Spirit Voyage website and clicked on the Japji audio clip. I knew instantly, without even thinking it, that I had found the mantra that I needed – or that it had found me. I knew that it resonated in me and that I resonated with it and that chanting it was going to change my molecular structure – was going to literally rearrange my DNA, transform me at a cellular level, and gradually move me up and off the plateau I was resting on. I knew all of this within the first minute of hearing the audio clip-knew it completely and wholly as though someone had pressed an imprint of its truth on my third eye and I had absorbed it without needing to mentally process it. I had a fairly good idea of what my "logical" objections to pursuing this path might be, and I didn’t want to give them precedence. I wanted to have the experience first and then judge it, rather than pass a judgment which would keep me from having the experience.
In June 2004 I attended the Naad of Japji workshop in Espanola, New Mexico. The concentrated immersion in the sound current accelerated my physical healing in a way that I couldn’t have imagined. At this point in my life it had been over two years since I had engaged in any type of regular physical activity. One day during the Japji course we were asked to do a meditation that involved holding our arms over our heads for 11 minutes. I thought, "I can’t even hold my arms over my head for 11 seconds because my muscles are so weak, and even if I could, the pain would be unbearable." And then I thought, "That might not be true anymore. Let’s test it." I did the meditation for 11 minutes. My arms were strong enough. And although it was somewhat painful, it was the predictable pain of the nervous system adjusting and the muscles working. At that moment I knew I was on my way off that plateau.
When I returned to Chicago after the Japji course, I designed a "Return to Exercise" program for myself and repeatedly renewed my 40-day commitment to chant Japji. In June 2005 I returned to Espanola for more Japji! By this time I was able to engage in some sort of cardiovascular exercise for an hour at a time, four or five days a week, at a moderate to intense level, as well as lift weights three times a week. I was also getting out of bed consistently at 4:00 a.m. for sadhana, and I had gradually increased the amount of time I spent at my job to 40 hours weekly-something I had not been physically capable of doing since 1995. In Espanola I was able to participate in group sadhana, which I had not been able to do the previous summer.
It’s now June 2006. I’m still chanting Japji every day. I’m also attending a weekly Kundalini Yoga class, doing a yoga set in my own morning sadhana, and preparing to take Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training in the fall!
It has been a great blessing to be engaged in a transformative relationship with Japji Sahib, and to discover through experience that “at the root of all there is only the One.”